Visionary Voices Honors Courageous Civil Rights Efforts

Historical marker is placed on SCAD’s Jen Library to commemorate the Civil Rights movement in Savannah, GA.

On Friday morning in downtown Savannah, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) hosted “Visionary Voices,” a commemorative ceremony at Trustees Theater. The event honored three African-American students — Carolyn Quilloin Coleman, Joan Tyson Hall and Ernest Robinson — who were arrested for sitting in the whites-only restaurant in Levy’s Department Store (now SCAD’s Jen Library) on March 16, 1960.

SCAD alumnus Masud Olufani performed at the Visionary Voices ceremony accompanied by Brittany Bosco. Here he introduces Visionary Voices honoree Carolyn Quilloin Coleman. Photo Credit: Courtesy of SCAD

The ceremony featured remarks by SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace, former Savannah mayor Edna Jackson, honoree and Secretary to the NAACP National Board of Directors Carolyn Quilloin Coleman, as well as performances by SCAD alumni Masud Olufani (M.F.A., sculpture, 2013), and Savannah-born singer Brittany Bosco.

SCAD alumni George Lovett and Kiandra Richardson perform during the Visionary Voices celebration at Trustees Theater. Photo Credit: Courtesy of SCAD

“The university’s many historic buildings across the world tell powerful tales, and this historical marker at SCAD’s Jen Library will ensure one of the most important events of this storied city is never forgotten,” said SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace.


Todd Groce, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Historical Society, unveiled the Savannah Protest Movement historical marker installed at the entrance of SCAD’s Jen Library. This marker denotes a site on the Georgia Civil Rights Trail, which explores the issues central to the twentieth-century struggle for civil and human rights in Georgia.


The sit-ins were considered Savannah’s first direct-action protest and sparked the larger Savannah Protest Movement, earning a place in history as one of the most influential moments in the movement.


In response to the dauntless endeavors of these Savannah students, African-American leaders W.W. Law, Hosea Williams and Eugene Gadsden organized a nearly complete boycott of city businesses and led voter registration drives that helped elect a moderate city government led by Mayor Malcom Maclean.


This week was declared “W.W. Law Preservation Week” by The Savannah City Council to recognize the work of the civil rights leader. It was especially appropriate that this ceremony took place at this time.

The Georgia Civil Rights Trail Marker placed at SCAD’s Jen Library. Photo Credit: Courtesy of SCAD

W.W. Law had a strong and long-lasting relationship with SCAD. The university donated the Beach Institute to Law and the King-Tisdell Foundation in 1998. “SCAD has brought life into the streets, and that’s what any inner city needs,” Law said. “The significant number of buildings that have been purchased by SCAD and put back into service as part of the college complex is almost a miracle.”


In her closing remarks, SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace said “Mr. Law and I were natural collaborators, both lovers of history and literature, dreamers of a similar dream. Together, we explored how we would help our community grow and thrive by resurrecting and adaptively reusing historic structures, and by engaging the whole of the Savannah community. Our hearts shared a desire as grand as the mightiest oak.”

SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace, former Mayor Edna Jackson and Visionary Voices honorees Carolyn Quilloin Coleman and Joan Tyson Hall at Trustees Theater. Photo Credit: Courtesy of SCAD